In the last post, I gave a detailed example of my panic attacks as a teenager. As a teenager, the almost daily anxiety attacks, coupled with feeling like I was going crazy and not having anyone to turn to, caused years of personal suffering.
In this post, I will describe the signs and symptoms of anxiety attacks that I felt at age seven, and tips for childhood anxiety disorder treatment.
Panic Attacks in Children, How to Help a Child with Anxiety
Although coping with panic attacks without the proper help is a difficult struggle at any age, panic attacks in children are particularly terrifying– not only for the child, but for the concerned parents or caretakers as well. The signs and symptoms of panic attacks in children may be similar to those in adults, but the child has a limited ability to verbalize his or her thoughts and feelings. This adds to the confusion and distress, which was certainly the case with me.
I will now take you back to the year 1972, when I was seven years old. At this point in my young life, I am acutely afraid and have a severe phobia about peeing my pants in front of my classmates. At night, I began to dread the thought of going back to school in the morning (symptom: anticipatory dread).
Every night after dinner and activities, my family would gather together in the living room and watch TV together before going to bed. It was our nightly routine for several years. I remember watching a show and my mind wandering off to the dreaded classroom. I just knew I would be the next student to pee my pants in class like Becky (symptom: fear of embarrassing myself in front of others).
While sitting there with my family, my sense of perspective would change. Suddenly, I would feel as if I was in the back of my head, or behind myself (symptom: depersonalization). The room looked like a cartoon and I was not in my body. Terrified, I remember bolting upright and screaming, “I’m not here! Help!!”
My parents and sleepy siblings, startled out of their rest, all bolted upright and stared at me, wide eyed and mouths agape. They did not know what they were witnessing and they sure as hell didn’t know what to do. “I’m not here! Help me!”
After a few desperate cries, suddenly the weird feelings passed, and I felt “normal” again. After a hug from my mother and a glass of water, the family settled down again and continued to watch the show without incident. This scene in the living room would repeat itself over my second grade school year.
After awhile, my weeknight outbursts became something of a family joke. Whenever I would feel the depersonalization and cry out “I’m not here! Help me!”, my siblings would take turns, always answering my question with the standard reply, giggling, “Then where are you Jill?”
When the episodes passed and I felt myself again, I remember being very angry at my siblings and very confused.
How to Help a Child with Anxiety: My Daughter’s Experience
Twenty years later, in what I thought was a particularly cruel twist of fate, my very own second grade daughter began exhibiting symptoms of panic and anxiety attacks. She became traumatized during a severe summer thunderstorm. As the rain came down in sheets, we ran for cover into a nearby convenience store. Then a bolt of lightning struck the building we were in, causing caused the air conditioning unit to implode into the store. A large window panel shattered and the noise was terrifying and deafening. Everyone in the small store screamed.
A few weeks later at a crowded small town carnival, it began to thunder. My daughter started to cry and wanted me to take her to the car immediately, which we did. As my husband drove home through the downpour, she clung to me in terror. She slept on the floor of our bedroom that night.
After those two incidents, she became phobic of clouds. Every morning when she woke up, she would immediately run to her window and look for clouds. If there were clouds in the sky, even on a peaceful summer day, she was unable to go outside without great distress. A few weeks into her cloud phobia, we had her seeing a pediatric psychiatrist who specialized in anxiety disorders in children.
Today she is a young teenager and is panic free (knock on wood). I share this information with you because I know there are folks out there who can identify with this story. My daughter has come a very long way since my second grade, and today she no longer suffers from panic attacks. (Thank you Lord).
Panic attacks in children respond well to treatment and I am here to say that although it takes a kind of courage you might not have known you possessed as a parent, you can do this for your child.
Childhood Anxiety Disorder Treatment
From my experience of living through a panic experience with an anxious child I can recommend the following:
1. Listen to your child.
Acknowledge and validate his or her fears, but don’t feed into them. Don’t let them see that you are worried about them– fear is contagious. Remain calm and composed as you provide encouragement and reassurance.
2. See a doctor.
If your child is anxious it is a good idea to get him or her checked by the pediatrician. Make sure nothing physical is going on. If the culprit turns out to be anxiety, you can seek help from a qualified therapist.
4. Make your house a Scary Free zone
Back when I was growing up, if the movie of the week was Carrie, we all sat down and watched it – and then I would have nightmares and be unable to sleep. If your child already suffers with anxiety, don’t make it worse or feed into it by watching scary shows on TV.
And be sensitive to what they consider scary- even some cartoons like Scooby Doo or an Elmo video- that you might not think twice about might be something that bothers your child and increases their anxiety. An anxious child is a sensitive child, so be sensitive to their needs.
Really Empower yourself and your child.
It can be so very painful to watch your child suffer with anxiety and feel powerless to help. Panic attacks and anxiety in children rarely go away on their own.
But you don’t have to feel powerless. You can take control. With The Anxiety-Free Child Program, you will give your child peace from their anxiety and make life better for them.
This is a step-by-step, easy to follow program designed to help free your child from their anxiety faster and easier than you may have ever thought possible. It gives you tools and strategies to implement at home. Your child will start feeling better right away.
I wish you peace,
If you have an anxious child and are seeking childhood anxiety disorder treatment, The Anxiety-Free Child Program is a must-have.